Education bosses pledge improvements

EDUCATION chiefs today pledged to ensure failures in the provision of special needs education will not happen again.Suffolk County Council has revealed it has apologised to the parents of a child at the centre of a case which led a local government ombudsman to describe the authority's practices as "maladministration causing injustice".

EDUCATION chiefs today pledged to ensure failures in the provision of special needs education will not happen again.

Suffolk County Council has revealed it has apologised to the parents of a child at the centre of a case which led a local government ombudsman to describe the authority's practices as "maladministration causing injustice".

The child's parents, known as Miss Fallon and Mr Butler complained about the council's failure to make proper provision for their son, referred to as Stephen, who has special educational needs. Their names have been changed to protect their identity.

The family at the centre of the case is understood to be from the Ipswich area, but the ombudsman is unable to use their real names because of legal restrictions.

The council's acting director of learning, David Thornton, said: "This is a matter which we take very seriously, as we always try to resolve problems like this before they get to this stage.

"We have already apologised to Miss Fallon and Mr Butcher for the distress caused by the delays in completing their son's annual review, and will of course write to them formally following the Ombudsman's decision.

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"We have also taken a number of steps to prevent other families experiencing similar problems in the future."

The ombudsman's report said: "The complainants say they and Stephen have been caused unnecessary distress and uncertainty and that Stephen's educational progress has been prejudiced because of the council's delay in making appropriate provision for the full extent of his special educational needs."

The ombudsman criticised the council's failure to specify the number of hours of special educational provision for the child and it also criticised the council's advice to withdraw the boy from school.

Suffolk County Council today stressed it now specifies the number of hours of specialised help that should be provided for children who have been identified as having special educational needs.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: "The delay in the education psychology assessment was unacceptable, and the service has now built in time to deal with urgent referrals.

"We are also making sure that the progress of annual review cases is subject to closer monitoring and that we take action more swiftly in the future to deal with any delays."

Members of the authority's standards committee will review the results of the ombudsman's investigation, and his recommendations, in February.

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